Heavy rain and wind did not dampen the energy or the message brought by voyagers of the Canada C3 ship as it arrived in Nanoose Bay on Saturday, Oct. 21.
On the 143rd day of a 150-day voyage that started in Toronto, went up the East Coast, through the Northwest Passage and continues down the West Coast, Canadians from across the country climbed out of zodiac boats to be greeted by Snaw-Naw-As Coun. Lawrence Mitchell.
The message exchanged by Mitchell and Geoff Green, founder and expedition leader of Canada C3, was one that acknowledged the terrible mistakes of the past, and hoped for a better future through communication, co-operation and dedication that sees Canada and the First Nations come together.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said Green as he helped Canada C3 participants out of zodiacs during a heavy morning downpour.
“We started 143 days ago in Toronto, Ont. in the Great Lakes, and we’ve been travelling every day since, stopping every day, visiting small communities, big cities, trying to really learn about Canada’s past, its present and also the possibilities for its future.
“We’ve heard so many incredible stories, met incredible people, seen unbelievable parts of this coastline, the longest coastline of any country in the world,” he said.
The trip, divided into 15 legs, had a new batch of Canadians take that leg of the journey every 10 days, he explained.
Participants are activists, journalists, youths, scientists, artists and communicators hailing from all over Canada, with some originally from as far away as Buenos Aires and Baghdad.
“They represent a real cross-section of Canadian society, and they are on board as ambassadors, to share the journey every day with the rest of the country,” said Green.
“And it’s a journey of science, education, youth engagement, celebrating our diversity and inclusiveness in Canada, but probably the biggest theme has been reconciliation, and learning about all these things about the last 150 years that we definitely do not want to celebrate.
“(These are) parts of our history that haven’t been shared enough, haven’t been taught enough. So a big part of what we’re doing is sharing learning, trying to heal and, particularly, heal this relationship between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.”
Mitchell began his greeting to the travellers with a song of appreciation.
“I’m really thankful you guys are here today… that you guys have been touring for 143 days… visiting all the different territories and all the nations and bringing together messages and sharing it with the world in the way that you’re doing,” Mitchell told the voyagers.
“We’ve come a long way in the history of Canada, compared to our dark history to where we’re going. We’re really working together to create a better society, and I’m thankful that you guys are able to help in that message.
“We need to learn and work together so that our children and our grandchildren and those unborn grow up into the Canada that you hear about across the world. That beautiful, multi-cultural society that the whole world thinks of us. We need to come together more.”
One of the organizers of the Canada C3 visit to the area was Graham Sakaki, research and community engagement co-ordinator with the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute and Vancouver Island University.
He explained that the trip participants would split into two groups, with one group learning and working on the Snaw-Naw-As garden of spiritual healing project, which the nation and VIU have been working together on.
The other group was to participate in wetland mapping at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.
Then Qualicum First Nation Chief Michael Recalma was scheduled to lead the entire group on a tour of the Big Qualicum Fish Hatchery.